The Lyons Township High School boys swimming team hasn’t scored a point at either of the last two state meets.
The Lions may or may not be shut out again this year but that doesn’t mean the squad isn’t improving. Illinois is one of the top states for high school swimming and has produced several Olympic medal-winners in recent years.
So just qualifying for state, let alone getting a top-12 medal, is pretty tough to do.
“[The state] is so fast,” LTHS coach Scott Walker said. “It’s hard to explain to the kids that you swam great but there’s 12 guys that swam faster than you. Don’t let that discourage you. You can’t control how other people swim.”
The Lions obviously control how they swim though, and that’s what has Walker excited going into Saturday’s Downers Grove North Sectional (1 p.m.). LTHS, one of six teams from the West Suburban Conference Silver Division in the sectional, should be the second-best team behind conference rival Hinsdale Central.
“I’m not a big fan of making big predictions, but if these guys perform like they’ve been training, they should have a phenomenal meet,” Walker said. “Everybody is putting in the effort. They’re very focused and they’re having a lot of fun. Everybody is basically in a good place.”
The Lions hope to qualify as many swimmers as possible to the state finals, a place most of them have never been.
One who has is senior Brendan Weibel, who was 24th in the 500-yard freestyle and 34th in the 200 free at last year’s state meet. Weibel and senior David Freund were also on the 200 free and 400 free relays that finished 26th and 31st, respectively, in 2013.
Those two are the Lions’ best medal threats, though both will have to drop a lot of time. Weibel is currently ranked 46th in the 500 free and 48th in the 200 individual medley, while Freund is rated 24th in the 200 free.
“I wouldn’t be stunned if [Weibel] did,” Walker said. “Time-wise it has yet to be seen, but these guys have worked hard. I’ve been able to work them out harder than I did last year, so it has suppressed their ability to swim fast during the season. Their improvement has been hidden.”
But it could be out in the open on Saturday, where several other Lions have hopes of making the cut.
Senior Adam Kline and junior Jack Garrow swam on last year’s 200 medley relay that finished 28th. Garrow has a shot to make it in the 100 free and 100 backstroke, while junior Ben Hewett (200 free and 500 free) and sophomore Westin Credit (200 IM, 100 breaststroke) are seeking their first state berths.
Walker also has high hopes for what he calls two “phenomenal” divers in junior Matt Benz and freshman Seamus Scotty, and freshman sprinter Matt Linden, a possible star of the future. They all contributed to the team’s second-place showing behind Hinsdale Central at the West Suburban Conference Silver Division meet.
“We need to see how [Linden] is going to handle the pressure,” Walker said. “But I’ve known him since he was five years old and he pretty much steps up for the big meets.”
Regardless of how this season ends, Walker said the future is bright for the Lions, who have only three seniors.
“It’s been an enjoyable season,” Walker said. “We’ve just had a ton of fun together. I think we’re going to be in this little slow progression in the next two years.”